NHL may bump up Cup finals start date

Updated: May 25, 2009, 7:27 PM ET
By E.J. Hradek | ESPN The Magazine

According to multiple sources, if the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings can wrap up their respective Conference final series by Wednesday night, the Stanley Cup finals likely would start on Saturday, May 30 in Detroit. In this scenario, Game 2 would be played on Sunday, May 31.

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This is a change from a May 22 press release from the league that indicated that the championship series would begin on Friday, June 5, if both Conference final series didn't end in four-game sweeps.

The Penguins can close out their series with a victory over the Hurricanes in Raleigh on Tuesday night. The defending champion Red Wings, meanwhile, have positioned themselves to advance with a win over the Blackhawks on Wednesday in Detroit.

For the past several days, the league has been working behind the scenes with NBC, which has limited prime time real estate to devote to the Cup finals due to important "sweeps" week programming and the Tonight Show re-launch with new host Conan O'Brien.

The possible change would spare the league an embarrassing, television-created, eight-day hiatus and the competitive nature of the playoffs wouldn't be compromised by an unusually long layoff for both clubs.

E.J. Hradek covers the NHL for ESPN The Magazine.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.